Russia’s Giant Battle Cruiser Will Return
The Russia Navy’s most powerful warship, the battle cruiser Admiral Nakhimov, may be about to be relaunched. It is part of a massive modernization which will see it armed with new weapons. The nuclear-powered ship is almost as large as the famous Iowa Class battleships of the U.S. Navy. But it is considerably more modern in armament and thinking. With the latest weapons and sensors it will be, arguably, the most powerful surface combatant in the world.
‘Battle Cruiser’ is not a category of warship that is used very often, not since World War Two. Like battleships, modern warships just do not stack up to these titles. Except for the Project 1144.2 Kirov Class nuclear cruisers, of which Admiral Nakhimov is one. These were built at the later of the Cold War to specifications which dwarf any other surface combatant then or now.
They are armed with an incredible array of weapons. Their main ‘carrier killer’ armament were 20 giant P‑700 Granite supersonic missiles. Against air threats they carried 96 S‑300 long-range missiles and 40 9K33 Osa short-range missiles. Then there were no less than six Kashtan close-in-weapons-systems (CIWS). Each has two 30mm Gatling guns and eight 9M311 short range missiles, plus 24 reloads for a total of 192 missiles.
Because of the size and complexity these vessels are incredibly expensive to crew and maintain. Of the four originally built (out of five planned), only two are still in service. The other one, Peter the Great (’Pyotr Velikiy’) is with the Russian Navy’s arctic based Northern Fleet. That ship is newer and already equipped with comparatively modern systems.
So the ship was due modernization. Although the Kirov Class battle cruisers are impressive warships, much of their original technology is antiquated today. The modernization should bring her back up to date.
According to Russian state media RIA Novosti, she will be armed with the 3M22 Zircron hypersonic anti-ship missile. This is an ultra-modern weapon which is becoming a priority system for the resurgent Russian Navy. President Putin emphasizes this weapon, most recently during his Navy Day speech in St. Petersburg. Zircon is much smaller than the original P‑700 Granite missiles so possibly more will be carried. Based on a modernization to the Oscar-II class submarine, three Zircon could be carried for each Granite, so a total of 60 missiles.
It is unknown whether the Kalibr land-attack cruise missile or Oniks dual-purpose anti-ship and land attack missile will be carried. But given that they are sometimes loaded interchangeably with Zircon this is a distinct possibility. These would give Admiral Nakhimov a greater land-attack capability than her sister-ship Peter the Great.
RIA Novosti also says that the main air defense complex will be upgraded to the Fort‑M system, which is a more advanced version of the S‑300. That system is still about 30 years old and doesn’t compare to the latest S‑350 or S‑400 systems. But those have not been fitted to ships so it might be a question of development cost. Either way, Fort‑M is a reputable system.
Other upgrades include more modern close in air defenses and anti-submarine armament. I expect that her massive twin 130mm main gun might be replaced with the newer single-barrel AK-192 gun.
There are indications that the mighty warship might be launched very soon. Russian media reported (in Russian) that the basin where the ship is being worked on is slowly being flooded. And I had been observing this through open sources. Recent satellite imagery shows that she is still a construction sight though. So she may need several years alongside in Severodvinsk after launch before the modernization is complete.